Buyer's Guides, Resources + FAQs

Living Room Lighting Guide

The living room is one of the most dynamic spaces in a home. As its name suggests, it is where most of the “living” happens. The room is used for a variety of things, including lounging and hanging out, entertaining family and friends, and relaxing by watching TV or reading a book. However, to keep up with how functional the space is, the living room lighting needs to match.

The best living room lighting arrangement is created through a combination of three different types of light: ambient lighting, task lighting and accent lighting. Each type of light allows for a different activity. By layering these three lighting styles together, a living room will be properly illuminated to meet any need.

Ambient Lighting

Valeo LED Floor Lamp by Nick Sheridan, from Cerno. Image via

Also known as general lighting, ambient light is an even layer of illumination that fills the whole room. This type of light is used to safely avoid furniture when walking around the room, searching for a lost remote, or for social activities like entertaining guests or playing board games. Ambient lighting also helps to offset the brightness from task lights, computer screens, and TVs in order to avoid glare and ease strain on the eyes.

The obvious choice for this kind of lighting is strategically placed ambient table lamps or floor lamps. But the most efficient way to add ambient light to a living room is with ceiling lighting. A flush mount or semi-flush mount ceiling light centered in the room will cast diffused light evenly throughout the space. A chandelier or large, decorative pendant light functions the same as a close-to-ceiling fixture; and it will add a compelling, design statement as long as the room has the ceiling height to accommodate it.

Starburst LED Chandelier by Stephen Blackman, from Blackjack Lighting

Ambient light also sets the mood in the living room. Control it by using a dimmer switch instead of a standard on/off switch. This will allow for the intensity of the light to be easily changed from bright, generous light for social gatherings to low, subtle light for lounging and watching TV.

Design Tip: Living rooms tend to not have a focal point due to the variety of activities that take place there. In order to create one, center a chandelier or pendant light over the coffee table or ottoman for a visually pleasing and balanced look.

Task Lighting

VL38 Radiohus LED Floor Lamp and VL38 Radiohus LED Table Lamp from Louis Poulsen

As its name implies, task lighting is bright, directional light used for activities such as reading. Sometimes overlooked–as ambient light can seem like it is bright enough–task lighting is needed for focus and reducing eye strain. This style of light is localized and only used occasionally.

Table lamps or floor lamps with an adjustable head are the ideal fixtures for providing task lighting in living rooms. For optimum performance, a reading table lamp should be positioned next to a sofa or lounge chair to cast light directly on whatever is being read or worked on. The same placement is ideal for a reading floor lamp or an arc floor lamp; however, they can also be positioned behind seating due to their larger size. Need to save floor or table space? You can consider installing an adjustable wall sconce to provide the same function.

Design Tip: For a unique, ultra-modern alternative to a traditional reading table lamp, add a desk lamp for task lighting in a living room. The lamp is adjustable and provides focused, directional light that is great for reading and working. However, when not being used for task lighting, the lamp can be adjusted to shine bright light to highlight a vase or draw attention to a piece of decor.

Accent Lighting

Monorail System and Tilt Head from TECH Lighting. Image via

Accent lighting is the final layer of light needed in a living room. It serves two purposes; it adds drama and visual interest to a room and combats any harsh brightness from task lighting. Accent lights highlight any artwork or pictures on walls, bring attention to any architectural details or a fireplace, and make the room feel larger by illuminating any dark corners and areas. They also balance any bright light cast from task lighting, to keep the ambiance of the living room relaxing and comfortable.

By strategically placing a table lamp or a floor lamp in a corner, the living room feels larger because it adds accent light to a space that is often not reached by ambient light. For small living rooms where floor space is limited, add accent light to these dark spots with track lighting or recessed lighting. These ceiling lights can be placed along the perimeter of the room and have their direct light specifically focused on hard to light areas.

IO LED Wall Light from FontanaArte

Track lighting is also the most practical way to highlight fireplaces and other details of the room due to each track head being able to be positioned individually. Wall sconces are another way to add accent lighting in a living room. Plus, they reflect light off the walls to enhance the ambient light in the center of the room.

Design Tip: While wall sconces are an ideal way to layer accent light in living rooms, they can also double as wall art. Add a single decorative wall light or multiple fixtures to your living room to create a dynamic display that makes a bold yet functional design statement.

Shop our wide collection of living room lighting at Still in the idea phase? Check out our living room lighting ideas.

Becca Bird

Becca Bird

Becca is a Senior Site Merchandiser for YLighting and a firm believer in the idea that sometimes more really is more. As a lover of bright colors and bold patterns, Becca loves for her affinity of color to transcend into all aspect of her life - from her clothes to her home decor. When not at work, Becca can often be found online shopping, watching the latest scary movie, or brushing up on her fun facts.

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